The 2017 Harvest won’t soon be forgotten. The stories we tell will forever be divided between before the fire and after the fire.
Before the fire: While the grapes were busy getting tasty on the vine, Dylan and I snuck away for a ten-day motorcycle adventure through the South. We bought a 2005 Ducati ST3 sight unseen in backwoods Kentucky, flew out and rode it through some of the most beautiful countryside in America. Other than a couple of short trips to the coast, about 70 minutes total, I have never been on a motorcycle. It was an epic trip, filled with pre-hurricane wind, torrential downpours, and lightning storms. We ended our journey in New Orleans a few days before Hurricane Harvey started to flex his muscles off the coast. I thought the motorcycle trip was going to be my defining life event of 2017. I was wrong. Mother nature would do that with two perfect storms, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in 100+ years. First Harvey, then Hellfire.
The harvest went well. Dylan and his crew brought in some of the best fruit in a decade, and nearly all of it was fermented and tucked away into barrel by October 8th.
Fire!: The destruction is hard to wrap your mind around. The Winery is in the Coffey Park neighborhood, everything 100 feet North of us is ashes. We had an uneasy feeling about the strong winds that were blowing that Sunday afternoon, and I made a comment about it being ‘earthquake weather’ and that we needed to get our emergency bag packed. At 11:21 pm our intern reported a smell of smoke as she left the winery. In a few short hours, all hell would break loose. By 1:30 am posts of the fires in Calistoga started popping up on social media. It got worse. At 2:00 am we started calling friends who lived in the projected path of the fires as it burned over the ridge into Santa Rosa. By 2:30 am we heard the fire had jumped Highway 101 and was heading rapidly West into the densely populated neighborhoods near the winery. It’s a wonder it survived. But it did. And already the earth is sprouting green, showing us the way to renewal and resilience.
After the fire: We are a community in shock. We hug a lot more than we used to; friends, strangers, everyone. We ask ‘How are you?’ and we genuinely want to know. We listen to stories of just barely making it out, with tires melting on the pavement and the fire roaring all around them. We listen to their heartbreaking homecoming to sift through the ashes, and the dumbfounded tales of how could everything be gone, engine blocks melted, and a roll of toilet paper survive? We shake our heads at the randomness of it all. We hug some more. We give without thinking, we feed, clothe, and provide shelter for as many as we can. With all the ugliness and devastation around us these days, in California, Las Vegas, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the world at large. This community is showing us that when shit is at it's worst, people are often at their best. The saying around here is, ‘The love in the air is thicker than the smoke.’
We’ll drink to that.